Remnant II is the follow-up to under-the-radar hit Remnant: From the Ashes, a multiplayer dungeon-crawling shooter that shared design decisions with The Division and Dark Souls, crafting something utterly unique and unusual in the process. That same narrative dissonance is at play in Remnant II. Things start off with all the post-apocalyptic pomp and circumstance of The Last of Us, right down to the grim banter between your character and their companion Cass, an infected arm, and some questionable growths lurking on every wall.
It soon becomes clear that this isn’t The Last of Us, or The Division, when you’re attacked by creatures of the Deadwood. You’re saved by Bo and Clementine, with Clementine using telekinetic powers to hold the creatures in place before blasting them with a wave of energy. Things only take a further turn for the supernatural when you arrive at Ward 13, where, amongst the inhabitants of this safe haven, you meet Dwell. This be-horned creature refers to you as a Paxultek, and from here on out, it’s pretty clear you’re not in Kansas anymore.
Remnant II sees you travelling between worlds, thanks to the power of the World Stones. It’s little surprise to discover that the pestilence that’s at the heart of all the problems – the Root – was unleashed by humanity’s hubris, and you become wrapped up in the dimension-hopping drama as the Traveller, a do-gooder that can’t help but get themselves involved in everybody’s business, whether human or fae. The quality of the voice acting is excellent throughout, and Remnant II’s narrative and lore is impeccably delivered, wrapping you up in a storytelling cocoon you won’t want to leave.
While you can get through the narrative in around 15 hours, doing so would undoubtedly miss the point, as Remnant II wants you to get absolutely lost within, both physically and intellectually. Each time you start a new playthrough your world is ‘rolled’ from a large group of possible choices, meaning that everyone’s journey will be slightly different. The most remarkable thing is that every time you start a new world it still comes together seamlessly, with the overarching layout of each location feeling specifically designed. Within that, there’s a barrage of hidden areas, secret items and concealed boss encounters to track down and discover, giving plenty of reason to push the boundaries of each area.
Remnant II can be played in both single-player and three-person co-op, and tackling the fantastical worlds together as a team really lifts the experience higher. Damage scaling for more players, and their different levels, is effective, letting friends hop in together no matter where they are in the narrative. Besides that, loot and items are replicated across the whole group – apart from ammunition – so no matter who picks up what you’re all progressing at the same rate, while the push and pull of team work and keeping one another alive offers just the right level of stern challenge. Solo play is definitely tougher, at least until you’ve levelled up your character and their equipment, but there are some moments where playing alone really heightens the atmosphere, and you can sink further into the sumptuous visuals, twisted soundscape and compelling storytelling.
Each world looks incredible. From the post-apocalyptic setting of Earth, through to Yaesha’s dark fantasy and the synthwave soundtrack-sporting N’Erud – which feels as though it could easily appear in Destiny – each location is a feast for the eyes, with towering structures piercing the cloud and dark creatures lurking in glowing grottos. It’s a true fantasy adventure, rewarding exploration with a deeper understanding of Remnant II’s tale, all the while levelling up your character and their abilities.
Remnant’s character classes are called Archetypes, and you can swap between them as you go, eventually gaining the ability to equip two Archetypes at once. At the outset there’s the Medic, a healer and support class, the Hunter, a long-range damage specialist, the Challenger, a tank who likes to get in close, the Handler who brings teamwork to the table with their canine companion, and the Gunslinger (available as early DLC) fulfils the classic DPS role. If you’re looking to solo the Handler or the Challenger are your best bets, but all choices are valid here. More Archetypes become available as you progress, with hybrid classes mixing things up and offering a different way to approach each encounter.
Your chosen Archetype comes with its own batch of armour, with each boasting different levels of protection from physical damage through to a bunch of elemental resistances. If you’re a fan of changing your character’s appearance as well as fitting them out for the most protection Remnant II is going to disappoint you; there’s not a huge amount of variety to armour here, and it’s genuinely my biggest complaint about the game. You have to work around it, adding accessories that will interplay with your armour set, such as adding damage the lower your armour rating is, rather than dressing to impress. My character ended up wearing elements of the starter outfit for most of the game.
Perhaps they decided that you had enough to play with, and in fairness there’s a lot of equipment and skills for you to min-max to your heart’s content, including Traits which perform the traditional skill-tree role. The weaponry is frankly incredible in Remnant II, and it’s here that the game is willing to showcase individuality and variety. The majority of weapons start out as standard human firearms, offering you long rifles, handguns and melee options. However, once you add a Mutation you completely alter both the visual appearance of your weapon, and its secondary skill.
These skills are wildly varied, starting with the option of ammunition types that draw other enemies towards your primary target, causing damage to all, through to causing your targets to suffer from madness. I love the visual changes each Mutation brings, and it’s here that the dissonance between your character having been pulled from the real world is eased, as you gain armaments that are covered by mystical wood designs or Steampunk-esque modifications.
You can gain special weaponry from some of the boss characters as well, and Remnant II has some truly brilliant boss fights, and enemy types to face off against. One of the earliest, a multi-eyed, lupine foe that towers over you, offers you a difficult choice, and if you decide to fight them rather than accept their offer you can gain a number of different weapons depending on how the battle goes. I particularly love the long rifle you can gain from them, firstly because it’s inset with a series of red eyes that never stop moving, and secondly because its bullets are teeth that cause your targets to suffer from bleeding. How good does that sound?
While the weaponry is perfection, there are some fantastical foibles to be aware of in Remnant II that occasionally stop the fun. Firstly, playing on PC, it does crash from time to time, though checkpoints are regular enough that you won’t lose too much progress if it happens to you. There have also been a few matchmaking issues at launch, with some extended load times while everyone lines up, and some occasional freezing. It’s all few and far between though, and can hopefully be patched out in the near future.